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Building Pioneer, NanoSUN’s mobile hydrogen cascade refueller, was a joint effort. We set out to build something never seen before: a mobile hydrogen refueller with large storage capacity, at a fraction of the cost of a fixed station, with minimal power consumption and maintenance requirements. This took the ingenuity and expertise of not only our team, but also of our trusted partners. You need high quality components to build high quality systems.

To thank our partners for their support and showcase their unique contribution to the creation of Pioneer, we would like to almost literally take the lid off Pioneer and give you a peek of what’s inside. This will be the first article of a series where we talk through some of the main components of our mobile refueller, show you what their function is, why they are so important and how they came together.

The obvious place to start would be the gas storage. Our Type IV glass fibre cylinders, are made by market leaders Umoe Advanced Composites from Norway. Our cylinders are capable of holding as much as 420kg of hydrogen at 425bar within a 20’ container. This is how Pioneer can refuel so many vehicles with a single load.

For Pioneer to be mobile, it was key to have a format that would meet the safety, space and weight requirements of the main road regulations (ADR & TPED). We needed something new, never used before at such scale.

We worked with UAC since our first P135 prototype, which had 350 bar cylinders pressure, storing a maximum of 350kg of hydrogen gas. This was suitable to get the system out on demonstrations, but to achieve multiple full refuels, we needed more capacity. The UAC team then came up with a new and improved design of their glass fibre Type IV cylinders, that made us achieve the current 425 bar / 420kg capacity.

Stacking 9 UAC cylinders in rows of 3 horizontally gives users the ability to get the best out of our cascade refuelling system, while retaining easy access for maintenance purposes. By splitting the hydrogen gas into 9 tanks, our intelligent cascade system has instantly available high-pressure gas. Pioneer can provide full refuels to multiple vehicles, many times over and many more times than a typical decant method. All of this with no need for compressors or chillers, keeping everything low power (single phase, 0.5kW), reliable, easy to deploy and simpler to operate and maintain. 

To provide context, a fully loaded Pioneer can offer complete refuels to up to 7 HGV’s, or 14 buses, or even up to 900 forklifts. And it’s not even over, Pioneer can continue delivering partial refuels to many more vehicles beyond this.

UAC specialises in glass fibre composite cylinders, with 30 years combined experience. This material offers 70% weight reduction compared to steel cylinders, without the risk of corrosion and with no compromise in strength and safety. Glass fibre pressure vessels are also a much more price competitive alternative, compared to carbon fibre cylinders. UAC subject their cylinders to stringent fire, fatigue, stress rupture, burst (of up to 1,400 bar), impact and proof tests. They are designed according to “leak before burst” principles and are largely used in hydrogen gas applications.

Working with UAC was an easy choice, not only are they a great team to work with, but there is simply no other company with the same expertise and track record on building reliable glass fibre cylinders.

Paul Cook – NanoSUN Principal Mechanical Engineer: 

“UAC’s cylinders are a key element of our Pioneer systems, UAC was with us since our initial P135 Prototype and helped us upgrade from 350 Bar cylinders to the current range of 425 Bar cylinders ensuring a greater number of vehicle fills was achievable. Their robust, yet light weight design and unmatched capacity are what we need to get the best out of our cascade system.”

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